Fatal trench collapses are on the rise

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Workplace Accidents

Among the most serious things that can go wrong in construction is a trench collapse. Even though they’re generally preventable with the right precautions, like cave-in protection systems, these accident types becoming even more common. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that there has been an “alarming rise” in fatal trench collapses in recent years.

For example, last year, the federal agency cited a construction company with a history of safety violations with multiple additional violations after a trench collapsed at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Workers were removing soil when a concrete slab fell on two workers and fatally crushed them. In addition to not having a cave-in protection system, OSHA found that the workers’ employer hadn’t provided its workers with necessary safety training.

Other dangers involving trenches

Trench collapses and cave-ins aren’t the only potentially catastrophic event that occurs around trenches. Other serious and potentially fatal hazards include:

  • Flooding
  • Worker falls
  • Toxic materials
  • Unlabeled utility lines
  • Unstable foundations
  • Falling debris

Even equipment, large and small, can fall into a trench and injure or kill a worker.

It is worth noting that sometimes, people refer to trenching and excavation interchangeably. According to OSHA, excavation is a “man-made” cut or “precision digging” in the surface of the earth. Trenching is specific type of excavation that’s relatively narrow (up to 15 feet wide) and is deeper than it is wide.

Those who work in and around a trench site must have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Warning systems need to be present and working. There needs to be regular inspection of the site by qualified professionals.

Catastrophic and fatal injuries can and do occur too often, usually due to employer negligence. Yet, employers are not usually held responsible via personal injury suits in these matters. Instead, workers turn to the workers’ compensation system for benefits. Navigating this system can feel overwhelming for injured workers or surviving loved ones. Having experienced legal guidance can help to ensure that they get the compensation they’re due to ease the financial burdens caused by the harm at issue.